Doing Time, Doing Vipassana awards: winner of ‘Golden Spire Award’ at the San Francisco International Film Festival (1998), winner of NCCD Pass Award from the American National Council on Crime and Delinquency (1998), winner of ‘Gold Illumination Award’ at Crested Butte International Film Festival (2000) and inner of ‘Silver Award’ for best documentary at Crested Butte Reel Fest (200).
Doing Time, Doing Vipassana – Synopsis
Two women filmmakers from Israel, Ayelet Menahemi and Eilona Ariel, initiated this independent project.
In the winter of 1994-95, they spent five months in India, doing intensive research on the use of Vipassana as a rehabilitation method and its dramatic impact on foreign and Indian prisoners.
The authorities were unusually cooperative, allowing the team free access to two Indian jails.
The documentary begins with the story of Tihar Prison – a huge and notorious institution housing 10,000 inmates, 9,000 of them awaiting trial. When a new Inspector General, Kiran Bedi, was posted there in 1993, Tihar entered a period of rapid-fire change.
When Vipassana courses started in Tihar, results were immediate and dramatic. Many prisoners were deeply affected by the experience, and their attitudes changed drastically.
The success led to one of the most extraordinary events to take place in a prison anywhere: in April 1994, at a special facility inside Tihar, one thousand prison inmates participated in an 11-day Vipassana course – the largest ever held in modern times.
This led to another unprecedented event: within the precincts of the prison, a meditation center opened, offering regular Vipassana courses to the Tihar inmates.
David, an Englishman serving a sentence in Tihar and a Vipassana student, volunteered to work in “the Vipassana Ward.” The last part of the film present the inner journey traveled during a Vipassana course and examines the technique in more detail.
Why does practicing Vipassana have such a marked effect on people’s behavior and attitude?
What do they realize and what do they actually do during a course?
A few prisoners – Australian, British, African and Indian – tell of their experiences and their newly acquired outlook on life. The film concludes with a moving scene from Baroda Jail, showing the superintendent greeting his charges outside the meditation hall at the end of a Vipassana course.
Amit Ray wrote about vipassana meditation in his book – ”Yoga and Vipassana: An Integrated Life Style”:
“Vipassana meditation is an ongoing creative purification process. Observation of the moment-to-moment experience cleanses the mental layers, one after another.”